Creating the Mirage

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Kate Betts dishes the dirt on the new lineup for spring

• The Three D's of Fashion
For designers like Diane Von Furstenberg and Thakoon Panichgul, determination equals success- 9/11/06

• The Master of Mood
The Marc Jacobs show is about more than clothes. The designer reminds us that we shouldn't take fashion too seriously- 9/12/06

• Dressing like a Goddess
Several designers, including some runway rookies, are presenting romantic visions of what women should wear- 9/13/06

• Where Some Designers Get Their Ideas
This season collections had a wide range of inspirations, from 18th century painters to 1980s hipsters- 9/14/06

• Signature Looks
From Vera Wang's ethereal ready-to-wear layers to Zac Posen's glamourous looks for the red carpet- 9/15/06

• Creating the Mirage
Designers Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren have the skills to transport us to exotic locales- 9/16/06

Current Issue

•Photo Essay- How is Fashion Shaping Up?
Fur skirts? Winged sleeves? Six-inch platforms? Designers are anything but risk-averse when it comes to leveraging fall style

•Who's Got the Power?
Fashion designers may get all the glory, but they don't necessarily pull the strings anymore.

On a drenched afternoon with the temperature dropping below 60 degrees, it's quite a stretch to suddenly be transported 4,000 miles away to an African desert. Enter the world of Donna Karan. Like Ralph Lauren, she is an expert seductress when it comes to style. She can conjure her last trip to Egypt or Israel by simply painting the walls the color of wet sand, burning tangy incense and laying out a rough plywood floor. By the time the frocks come galloping out on platform shoes with heels that are sculpted in such a way as to resemble the handles of kitchen utensils, the clothes seem irrelevant. You're in Donna's world and everything else falls away. In her world it's easy to imagine breezing down the red carpet in a patchwork chiffon caftan the color of sagebrush. But maybe in reality that would not be such a great idea. I must admit I'm the first to get swallowed up by Donna's desert dream — a place where a draped batik dress or a poplin tent dress can seem so essential. But when the show was over and I stepped back out onto the gritty wetness of 10th street I suddenly missed the Donna Karan who gave women those desperately needed urban staples.

Similarly, Ralph Lauren's world is like a mirage that you can never quite reach. He designs the mirage down to the last button on the jacquard Nehru jacket he showed Friday morning. Not one pin tuck is left to improvise in Ralph's world, and that's what makes it so alluring. Forget about the fact that his clothes never follow trends. He is on his own trip — and this season the first stop was, briefly, India. Ralph is not a National Geographic -type traveler, either. He just teases his audience with a soupcon of the destination — in this case it was the old gold shimmer of a brilliant finale of evening dresses that recalled the fading sun setting behind a Jaipur palace.